March is typically the time to pull out the crawfish pot, check that the tank is full of butane and fire it up. Boiling crawfish is the quintessential Louisiana pastime. But once crawfish season is in full swing, that’s when things get creative. 225 recipe writer Tracey Koch likes to prepare crawfish in lots of different ways, including etouffee, bisque, pasta, pie and even tamales. That’s right—Crawfish Tamales, which are not only a bit unusual, but are a lot of fun to make when you have a group of friends coming over who don’t mind gathering in the kitchen around a pitcher of margaritas to help you cook!
The crawfish filling Tracey created for our March 2013 issue is easy to prepare and can be made a day in advance. The corn flour used to make the masa and dried cornhusks are easy to find in local supermarkets on the Hispanic or Latin American aisle. If dried cornhusks are too hard to find, you can always roll the tamales in parchment paper, and the result is every bit as delicious. Double the tamale recipe and freeze half to steam another time.
Servings: Yields 24-30 tamales
FOR THE CRAWFISH FILLING:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red or yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped jalapeńo pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 pound crawfish tails (with the fat)
1 can chopped green chilies
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1. In a skillet, heat the vegetable oil and sauté the onions, bell peppers and jalapeńo over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes.
2. Add in the flour. Continue to sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes.
3. Fold in the crawfish tails, chopped green chilies and water. Stir until all is incorporated.
4. Add in the rest of the ingredients. Reduce the heat to medium low.
5. Allow the mixture to come up to a simmer, stirring to prevent it from sticking.
6. Simmer crawfish for a couple of minutes or until crawfish are cooked through.
7. Remove the filling from heat. Allow it to cool while you make the masa.
FOR THE MASA:
4 cups corn flour or corn masa flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/3 cups vegetable shortening
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
1 (6-ounce) bag of dried cornhusks
1. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and seasonings until well blended.
2. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like wet sand.
3. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the broth until a dough is formed and is about the consistency of peanut butter.
4. Cover the dough and allow it to rest until the crawfish filling is cool enough to handle. (Both the filling and masa may be made a day in advance).
TO ASSEMBLE AND COOK THE TAMALES:
1. One hour before you are going to assemble the tamales, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat and place the dried cornhusks into the boiling water. Allow the cornhusks to soak for 1 hour or until they are quite soft and pliable.
3. To set up your assembly line, drain the cornhusks and pat them dry. Have kitchen twine and a pair of scissors ready along with the prepared masa and filling.
4. Select the larger cornhusks to work with and note that you can put two smaller husks together to form one big one. A husk about 12 inches long is needed to make a 6-inch tamale. Lay the husk smooth side down and place about a tablespoon of the masa near the top or the wider end of the husk. (Make sure to spread the masa, leaving 2 inches from the top and 3-4 inches from the bottom of the narrow end.)
5. Press the masa down one-fourth inch thick all the way to the edge nearest you into a 6-by-6-inch square. (There will be an inch or so of the husk left uncovered, which will leave you plenty of room to roll the tamale).
6. Spoon in a little of the crawfish mixture into a strip down the middle of the masa, leaving a border of the masa on all sides.
7. Fold the tamale up like a taco so the filling is covered by the masa. Begin to roll the tamale tightly, gently squeezing as you go until the tamale is completely rolled up.
8. Fold up the narrow end over the seam followed by the wider or top end. Lay the tamale down and tie it in the middle with a piece of kitchen twine. Place the rolled tamale into a steamer basket or colander and repeat the previous steps to roll your next tamale.
9. To finish the tamales, place the steamer basket or colander into a large pasta pot or steam cooker. Pour enough water into the pot to cover the bottom of the pot but not high enough to reach the basket itself.
10. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Steam the tamales 35 to 45 minutes or until the masa is set but not too dry.
This recipe originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of 225.